How much does a public relations agency retainer cost in the UK in 2024, according to actual data

team of creatives working together in an agency setting

If you’ve been trying to find out the cost for a PR agency retainer in the UK, the chances are, you meet one of the following criteria:

 

 

It is also likely, if you have been researching this topic, that you’ve seen articles claiming to have the answer, which then give a price range so wide that it is functionally useless.

 

For example, the LinkedIn article that is near the top of Google’s results for this query, at the time of writing in November 2023, gives a range of £2,000 to £10,000 per month. That’s a potential difference over a year of £96,000. Hardly useful benchmarking data.

 

So this article sets out to give precise monthly retainer rate estimates for independent PR agencies in the UK in 2024, based on the actual rates companies like yours are currently paying.

 

Essential Content is a PR agency, so naturally we know what our clients are paying. We also know what they have paid for PR in the past. And we have also been able to paint quite a detailed picture of what other agencies are charging, based on publicly available information.

 

Our sources for this article include:

 

 

 

 

 

 

The short answer – how much does a UK public relations agency retainer cost?

graphic depicting average costs of pr retainers in the UK in 2023

According to our analysis of 61 independent PR agencies for whom we have actual or estimated retainer rates, a public relations retainer in the UK in 2024 will cost £4,672.55 (approximately $6,397.64 USD and €5,464.63 EUR) on average.

 

£4,672.55 (approximately $6,397.64 USD and €5,464.63 EUR) is the mean PR agency retainer value in our dataset

 

£3,571 approximately ($4,889.27 USD and €4,182.07 EUR) is the median PR agency retainer value in our dataset.

The typical retainer will include the following:

 

Research

Content production

Media relations

Outreach

Account management

 

The typical retainer will NOT include the following, although some did include:

 

Social media support

Crisis and issues management

Video production

 

According to our research, the typical make-up of a public relations delivery team looks like this:

 

4 people

 

Account manager

Account executive

Content executive

Outreach or media relations specialist

 

Some of the PR retainers we analysed included involvement from agency partners, often founding partners, managing directors and CEOs. This was typical at smaller agencies, but there was one large agency in our sample where client reviews frequently referenced the involvement of the founding partner.

 

The important caveat here is that this figure excludes the very largest PR agencies in the UK, such as Freuds, Edelman, Weber Shandwick, Havas and Brunswick. It also excludes global consulting firms that offer PR consultancy services as part of a wider mix.

 

Why didn’t we include these agencies?

 

With all due respect, and to paraphrase J.P Morgan, ‘if you have to ask how much these agencies cost, you probably can’t afford them’

How do PR agencies set their rates, fees and retainers?

This varies widely, depending on one or more of the following factors:

 

Agencies will either prepare a custom fee or retainer rate based on the scope of the brief, assign the brief to one of their fixed (or semi-fixed) ‘service levels’, or they’ll customise a service level to make it fit with a brief.

 

One interesting thing we did notice during our analysis was the vast disparity between rates charged by the same agencies for different clients. One agency, based in London and well established in the UK, had clients paying fees ranging from just under £2,500 (approximately $3,425 USD and €2,925 EUR) to just over £11,000 (approximately $15,070 USD and €12,870 EUR). That suggests that this particular agency bases its fees on scope, and has no fixed fee structure.

 

*Sometimes, agencies will not see a client as a great fit, but will take them on anyway. In some cases – not all, by any means – this results in inflated fees. We explain what drives this in our comprehensive guide to selecting a public relations agency.

 

**This is an important but underestimated factor that really does influence the cost of doing public relations. Agencies typically charge more when they are less in need of the revenue. In fact, when agencies are close to achieving what is referred to as ‘full utilisation rate’ – aka everyone is busy – their rates start to creep up.

 


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According to our analysis of 61 independent PR agencies for whom we have actual or estimated retainer rates, a public relations retainer in the UK in 2024 will cost £4,672.55 (approximately $6,397.64 USD and €5,464.63 EUR) on average.

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